Getting the Most Out of Product Reviews

April 13, 2014

In the days before the Internet, consumers had two choices if they wanted more information about a product: either ask a friend or consult the item’s marketing. And since people in those days weren’t able to stay in constant communication with everyone they knew, most had to opt for the latter. Nowadays, though, consumers have no shortage of options available when they want to shop around. Studies commissioned by Google show that consumers consult an average of 10.4 sources before buying something. Another survey found that 30 percent of Americans begin their purchase research by visiting Amazon for product information and reviews.

User-generated feedback is so influential that entire brands have been built upon it. For instance, the manufacturing firm Asus spent years making high-quality computers and laptops that were sold under other companies’ names. Then in 2008 CEO Jonney Shih announced that Asus would brand its own line of computers, prompting fears that consumers would ignore such an unfamiliar name. But Asus machines hit the market to rave reviews, which encouraged more people to give the fledgling brand a try. The company is now the world’s fifth best-selling PC brand.

Asus joins the list of other young brands like HTC, Hyundai, and Roku who successfully broke into established industries with little name recognition. Meanwhile, once mighty brands like Nokia and Blackberry faded swiftly after consumers found better alternatives. This just goes to show that prominent traditional marketing only does part of the job for companies in fields like consumer electronics. With so many resources at their disposal, shoppers these days want to be sure they’re purchasing a quality product, not just a quality brand. However, these same rules don’t apply for items like Clorox bleach or Bounty paper towels. That’s because consumers are less willing to consult outside sources about products they don’t care about. After all, when’s the last time you think anyone you know asked their Facebook friends about the best kind of dishwashing detergent?

 

Questions:

  1. Does widespread use of product research mean brand loyalties are meaningless?
  1. Can out-of-favor brands make a comeback in a competitive market?

 

Source: Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen, “What Marketers Misunderstand About Online Reviews,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 2014.

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